Infinite Anatomies

In recent seasons, Rick Owens and Charles Jeffrey Loverboy look beyond sartorial fashion as a means to subvert and reinvent the contemporary body. Rick Owens’s AW19 collection ‘Larry’ and Charles Jeffrey Loverboy’s SS19 collection ‘Emergence’ both transgress the constructed boundaries of the human body through makeup, hair, costume and props.

In the conventional world of glossy magazine editorials and a digital bank of gym and yoga selfies, physical bodies are limited to a predictable definition of tiny waists, thin thighs, smooth skin and silky hair next to broad shoulders and sculpted chests. In an alternative universe, there lies an equally dedicated and dominant community of iconoclasts, who refuses to accept today’s template of gender norms, beauty and the ideal body.

In her bedroom at home in Northern Wales, 18-year-old drag artist Caleb Morris, better known as Salvia, is challenging corporeal conventions with her surreal self-portraits on Instagram. Drawing inspiration from a wide range of influences – from Alexander McQueen runway shows and deep sea creatures, to flowers, futurism and women in pre-Raphaelite paintings, Salvia digitally manipulates her own body and facial features, transforming herself into hybridised figures of a surreal reality. Her vision, fortunately, doesn’t remain within the confines of her bedroom and the digital sphere. Always one to corrupt convention by presenting bodies and silhouettes contrary to the static and conservative ideals of mainstream fashion and society, Rick Owens reached out to Salvia to recreate her uncompromised vision of humanity. The result: the biomorphic glamour of his recent Autumn/Winter 2019 runway presentation.

Entitled ‘LARRY’, the collection is a response against today’s social, political and ecological decline, which Owens counterbalances with a grim and determined glamour. Platform boots and sharp sci-fi shoulders, the looks are, in other words, a hard-edged version of haute couture. Complete with faux facial prosthetics created by Salvia using wax, silicone and latex, the collection reflects Owens’s commitment to go “beyond the limits of what one already expects to see and knows about bodies”, as he expressed in an interview with Mousse Magazine.

Makeup artist Lucy Bridge worked with two prosthetic artists, Sophie Moore & Alexandra Knights, to re-create prosthetic noses for Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY Spring/Summer 2019.

In that regard, Owens is in good company. London’s contemporary enfant terrible Charles Jeffrey shares a similar vision for his label LOVERBOY — a vision that is resolute in establishing the case for a post-gender future. His Spring/Summer 2019 runway presentation, ‘EMERGENCE’, is what one might imagine a post-apocalyptic party look like. The prosthetic noses some of his models sported was fuelled by his obsession for English electronic musician Planningtorock, a.k.a Jam Rostron, who toys with her bone structure and hair as a means to express her own gender-neutrality.

Together, these corporeal rebels are protesting the corporate connoisseurs of beauty by transcending the presently limited outlook on bodies. After all, the body is what critic Mary Kosut describes as a “site for radical renovation and modification.” So why settle for the cookie-cutter genre of the body when you can indulge in the subversive version?